The Gonzaga Bulldogs missed a huge opportunity to get a statement win, falling to the No. 16 BYU Cougars, 62-50, at home after coughing up a 15 point lead at halftime.
The Zags came out aggressive, attacking the offensive glass and generating nine second-chance points in the first quarter off of seven offensive rebounds. Kayleigh Truong was the hot hand for the Zags, burying a three as time expired in the first quarter to help the Zags take a 20-10 lead.
The intensity continued in the second quarter. Both teams were grinding it out and no shot was coming easy for either squad. The big difference was that BYU continued to be cold from the outside, going just 0-for-7 in the second quarter, and Gonzaga had Cierra Walker. The Zags went a perfect 3-for-3 in the second quarter from three-point range, two hits by Walker and one by Bree Salenbien. Gonzaga built their lead to 35-20 going into halftime.
Unfortunately, basketball games are 40 minutes long and the tide started to turn in the third quarter. Gonzaga could not hit a shot to save its life and didn’t hit its first field goal of the quarter until nearly six minutes in. Meanwhile, the Cougars started to grind it out on the offensive glass, generating second-chance points, and most importantly, finally hitting a three-pointer.
Paisley Harding drained the Cougar’s first three in the game, roughly 25 minutes in. Harding single-handedly dragged BYU back into contention for the game, dropping 12 of BYU’s 19 points in the third quarter. The Cougars outscored Gonzaga 19-3 in the third quarter to come back from the dead and lead Gonzaga by one going into the final frame, 39-38.
The pain continued for Gonzaga in the fourth quarter. Shaylee Gonzales, who was largely silent for much of the game, finally found her shooting touch. Harding continued to do absolutely everything on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, hitting shots and drawing fouls.
BYU’s defense was really the biggest driving chance for the game. The Cougars dominated Gonzaga on the defensive end and Gonzaga could not assert any sort of offensive game plan. The Zags tried dribble-driving kicks that just could not result in good looks. Gonzaga started to finally mount a little bit of resistance, but there just wasn’t enough time left in the game. What looked like a Gonzaga rout ended up turning out the exact opposite.
This was a brutal loss for Gonzaga. BYU rolled into the game smarting from an unexpected loss to Portland on Thursday. Gonzaga’s near-miss upsets on multiple good teams this year meant that the Zags needed a big win for the resume to help cement potential at-large bid status. Now, that has changed the equation. The Zags have to pull out the win in Provo to make sure that March Madness is still in the books.